“We made jokes that, one of these days, they’re going to figure out that we’re just normal people,” said the Rev. James Gwin, senior pastor of the church.
The group of seven people visited Zimbabwe, where they checked in on the Hope Center that Acworth UMC helped build, and Malawi, where they saw the site of a planned health clinic, for a week each between Sept. 13 and 27. Along with Gwin, the group included Shirley Rose, who has represented Acworth UMC on mission trips since 1990; Ben Green, the church’s director of missions; Acworth UMC members Steve and Sandy Augsburger along with Judith Strickland of Coal Mountain Baptist Church in Cumming.
Rose had long worked to help build the Nyika Mutambara Hope Center, named for an African native and graduate of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. The center is now run by his widow, Dorothy Mutambara, which provides food clothing and school supplies and keeps 100 orphans in school — including six college students.
Rose was pleased that she was able to bring Acworth UMC’s pastor on a mission to Africa for the first time.
“As soon as he got here, he wanted to go,” she said of Gwin, who came to Acworth UMC in early 2011.
Gwin said he has a long history of missions, but had never been to Africa.
“We had been talking and praying about actually building a clinic there, I felt I could do it better if I actually went there first hand and saw it,” he said.
While painting the Hope Center in the village of Mutambara, Zimbabwe, was an important part of the trip, Gwin said the primary impetus for the mission was visiting the Majawa village in Malawi, where he delivered a sermon and a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Achiona Health Clinic.
“Coming back, I think our main focus is to try to get the clinic built,” Gwin said.
“And to meet the people and try to build a relationship with them,” Rose added.
Acworth UMC is seeking to raise $30,000 for the clinic by Easter, with two annual yard sales, as well as donations that Rose collects year-round. Green said the clinic would serve 2,000 orphans in nine villages that are currently more than an hour drive from the nearest hospital.
“The elderly are also a concern,” Green said.
The government in Malawi has agreed to pay for a doctor and nurse to staff the clinic if the church can pay to build the facility, Gwin said.
The six missionaries are hopeful that they can each raise $5,000.
“It’s all happened because people have come to us,” Green said. “God’s bringing people to us through Shirley. God calls us, wherever he wants us to go, we go.”
Those interested in donating can call Rose at (770) 974-5024.